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Some residents still rebuilding one year after wildfire in Halifax-area

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It has been a year since the devastating wildfire tore through the suburban area of northwest Halifax, transforming the lives residents and reshaping the landscape of the community.

Peter Dominey often thinks back to that day.

“Me and my nine-year old at the time were up flying kites in the schoolyard and it was just a beautiful, wonderful day. The smile on his face was incredible. We left there, got home and two-and-a-half hours later we were evacuated. It went from being one of the best days to one of the worst days imaginable,” said Dominey.

He remembers the fear and uncertainty as he evacuated with his son.

“Leaving here was scary. There was a neighbour who was in his car trying to drive away and that caught on fire, too,” he said.

As Dominey evacuated the area, he prayed their home would be spared.

“I lost two sheds and several vehicles burned here. As far as my house goes, it melted the siding. There’s hole in the shingles and my deck caught on fire in the back,” he said. “But I am one of the lucky ones.”

Property damaged in Hammonds Plains after the 2023 Nova Scotia wildfire. (Source: Peter Dominey)

Firefighters were able to save the rest of his home before the fire spread further. However, others in the community suffered various degrees of losses.

“I mean you can look across the street. They’ve lost everything,” said Dominey.

More than 200 structures, including about 150 homes, were destroyed as a result of the nearly 840-hectare fire in Upper Tantallon and Hammonds Plains.

Tricia Murray-D’eon is among the residents in Hammonds Plains who lost her home to the fire.

“We loved our house, we loved our property and now it’s completely gone. It’s a lot and I’m trying to give space to that and feel okay with feeling some loss and feeling grief,” said Murray-D’eon.

She said she cannot forget the day or the house the fire started, forcing her to evacuate with her 8-year-old daughter.

“I’m still figuring out how I feel. It’s always in the background. Leading up to today and for the next couple of days I feel like this whole week I’ll have glimpses of where we were last year,” she said.

Since the fire, Murray-D’eon said she is even more alert in case of any emergency.

“We’re in active fire season again and I’m not putting my phone on ‘do not disturb’ anymore overnight because I’m wary of missing an evacuation notice,” she said.

Property damaged in Hammonds Plains after the 2023 Nova Scotia wildfire. (Source: Peter Dominey)

For the last year, the communities in Hammonds Plains and Upper Tantallon have echoed with the sounds of reconstruction.

A year later, many are still rebuilding, including Murray-D’eon.

“We got our permit in April so we started with our rebuild in the first week of May. I think our building permit was issued around the third week of April so my contract with my builder says 10 months after the permit was issued,” she said,

While Murray-D’eon is looking forward to returning to her community, it is bittersweet.

“Our home took a little longer because the city didn’t have our floor plans, so we had to design the home from scratch and figure things out that way,” she said.

Some homes in the area are seeing significant progress, however, others are far from complete.

There are also some properties that are not being built; instead, the land is up for sale.

A house under construction. (Hafsa Arif/CTV Atlantic)The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) reports forest conditions are stable but they urge caution.

“March (was) dry and any moisture we could get now we will certainly take,” said Jim Rudderham, director of Fleet and Forest Protection.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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